Were 4 Iranian tankers of fuel oil bound for VZ seized by the US?

Prop or Not? You decide.  The story is everywhere, mainly reporting it like this:

‘DOJ confirms ‘largest-ever US seizure of Iranian fuel’ on 4 ships bound for Venezuela’, 14 Aug, 2020

“The US has seized some 1.116 mn barrels of Iranian fuel aboard 4 ships headed for Venezuela, the Justice Department has confirmed, hinting at “assistance” from “foreign partners” and declining to reveal where the grab took place.

The agency hailed what it called the largest-ever US seizure of Iranian fuel in a statement on Friday, revealing Washington had nabbed the sanctions-skirting cargo en route to Venezuela with the assistance of unspecified “foreign partners.”

The statement appeared to confirm a Wall Street Journal report, citing anonymous government and shipping sources, that claimed four tankers loaded with Iranian fuel had recently seen their cargo confiscated “without the use of military force.” The vessels were said to be re-routed to Houston, Texas, where they will reportedly be met by senior Trump administration officials.

Washington’s high-seas score stems from a July court complaint demanding the four tankers in question “forfeit all petroleum-product cargo” due to its having been shipped by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to the statement. The US designated the IRGC a terrorist organization last year at the behest of Israel as it ramped up its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.”

The press release from the DoJ adds photos of the ships the Bella, the Bering, the Pandi, and the Luna, and adds this (to me) odd-bodkkins paragraph:

“HSI’s Colorado Springs [Bingling kicks up a Homeland Security Investigations C Springs] and FBI’s Minneapolis field office are investigating the case. The case is being handled by the National Security Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Assistant U.S Attorneys Zia M. Faruqui, Brian Hudak, and Stuart Allen, and National Security Division Trial Attorney David Lim are litigating the case, with assistance from Paralegal Specialists Elizabeth Swienc and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick.”

Oddly, Sputnik News didn’t cover it, nor did Telesur English or the Orinoco Tribune.  South Front covered it straight from the WSJ’s and DoJ’s mouths.  Iranian FM Javad Zarif on Twitter had zip about it, mainly his 5-part lecture series of ‘A world in transition’ in Tehran, and solidarity with Lebanon.

You’ll likely remember that Iran had successfully sent 5 ships of fuel to VZ in May and June, and amid all the bellicose threats from Pompeo and Co., they docked at a refinery in VZ over 4 days apart.

If this is all psychological warfare, is it due to Iran having executed the spy who’d helped locate IRGC Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, turned over his intel to Mossad and the CIA,  and who was subsequently assassinated in a US airstrike at Baghdad airport on January 3?

‘Exclusive: Report of US seizure of Iranian fuel cargoes false’, Friday, 14 August 2020, presstv.com

“The informed source explained on Friday that the fuel shipments in question had already been purchased and paid for and that neither the vessels carrying them nor the shipments themselves were related to Iran.”

 The photo the WSJ had added to their ‘News’; (I can’t read the ship’s name):

US seizes Iranian fuel cargoes for first time: WSJ

My apologies in advance if I'm delayed getting back. This took far more time than I'd hoped it would, and my RL chores have seriously backed up.

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polkageist's picture

I think I will believe the Iranians on this one:

https://iranpress.com/america-i150734-allegations_of_iranian_ships'_seizure_are_false_ambassador_to_venezuela

Edited to add this link the Tehran Times:

https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/451203/Iran-rejects-claims-about-seizur...

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wendy davis's picture

@polkageist

and i'm sure glad you'd edited in the tehran times link. this was new, and as it turns out...key:

A senior U.S. official told AP that no military force was used in the seizures and that the ships weren’t physically confiscated. Rather, U.S. officials threatened ship owners, insurers and captains with sanction to force them to hand over their cargo, which now becomes U.S. property, the official said.

An informed Iranian source told Nour News that no Iranian tanker has been seized.

the original story was 'unnamed foreign help', no military actions, and all that jazz. (as a side note, i've been wondering why the DoJ's using the WSJ for their conduit on this fake news.) i'd be tempted to snark: 'it's just bidness'.

but i'd gone to sputnik news to see if i could find a simple paragraph about the US losing its bid at the UNSC to extend the iranian arms embargo, as they did. no US 'allies' voted with them, as all abstained, and only tiny dominican republic voted with the US. china and russia voted against. of course. pompeo hd told tehran that if the vote filed to go their way, they'd enact the 'snapback' on their own. pres rouhani, according to RT.com is quite mindful of that threat. 'do as you will' (or close) he's quoted as saying.

afterthought: iirc, trump's wrong: the US had seized other iranian vessels, including several at one in the straits of gibraltar a couple years ago (?), but i'd have to look up the particulars.

anyhoo: look what i found, and oy the plot thickens:

‘Greek Shippers Threatened With Sanctions, Forced to Hand Over Iranian Oil Cargo to US, Report Says', today, sputniknews.com

Washington has forced Greece-based shipowners to surrender their cargo of Iranian fuel to the US government or face sanctions from the Trump administration, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the confiscation.

The ships in question, reportedly owned by Greek Vienna LTD and Palermo SA, were said to be loaded with Iranian oil, despite the sanctions imposed on Tehran. According to the report, their owners “grew frightened” due to the threat of US sanctions that could target the shippers and their crews, potentially depriving them from access to US banks and dollar depositions.

After a US federal prosecutor filed a suit to seize the tankers, the shippers agreed to transfer the oil cargo to Greece’s Eurotankers and Denmark’s Maersk vessels. They were subsequently expected to arrive in Houston, and according to US President Donald Trump’s comments to the press, might have already come to the US port. If the oil cargo will be recovered from the court, the money from its sale will go to the US Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund, the Department of Justice said in a press release. According to sources familiar with the transaction, the cargo has already been paid for by Venezuela.

if you click through to their Wall Street Urinal link, it's by the same dynamic duo as the original story. WTF?

as rouhani, zarif, putin, Xi, even merkel, and many others say, the US is isolating herself on the world stage by failing to concede that the US empire is flailing and failing, this more dangerous a loose cannon than ever.

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travelerxxx's picture

I won't bother to provide the links, but if one does a search for "largest-ever US seizure of Iranian fuel," I get many, many hits – BBC, CNBC, Fox News, Yahoo, Reuters, Xinhua, MSN, NY Times – claiming it's true.

Then I see other hits, some by the exact same sources, saying it isn't true. Reuters published a story claiming the cargo, but not the ships had been seized.

None of this is clear.

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wendy davis's picture

@travelerxxx

the iranian official seems to be right...as rain. no iranian ships or fuel....were seized. but the investigation will call the fuel 'iranian, shipped by the IRGS yes? and the 'proceeds', of course, will be used to pay the 'victims' of the scurrilous terrorist organization.

#MadeForATeeveeMovieThriller

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Pricknick's picture

When you act like a pirate, you should at least speak the lingo.
If true, it's piracy. If not true, it's the sign of a failing empire.
Our current state of political afairs can only be called a hornswaggle.
Cheat, lie and abuse.

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Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

wendy davis's picture

@Pricknick

i'm going with your 'not true, door #2.

now that you've lost your bid at the UNSC, what's next in your bag of dark magic, you mafia thug?

i reckon he means the sauds and bibi's likud? are the sauds on their way to building their own nukes? seems i'd seen such a headline this week. (or do they have them already? hard to imagine not, really.)

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@wendy davis

pompous pompeo calling the kettle black
a politically expedient failure to admit
the u.s. is the world's top state sponsor
of terrorism. sanctions, bombs and now
piracy. leading the free world by example

Who buys this shite?

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Let's try to help each other
find a better way.

wendy davis's picture

@QMS

a larger Q might be: for how much longer will they keep believing it? will they stop before...a nuclear conflagration? some cracks in Western Hegemony have begun, of course, but they only add fuel to the fire. piggy pompeo's in poland, trying to shore up NATO.

i'm sure that their were so many abstentions due to the fact that those leaders didn't want to risk the additional ire and sanctions of this administration.

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wendy davis's picture

@wendy davis

where id seen this...a whole hour ago:

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Israel have all called for renewing the embargo that is scheduled to expire in October.

bahrain: a 90% shiite population ruled by the 15% sunnis. home of the US navy's 5th fleet.

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enhydra lutris's picture

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

wendy davis's picture

@enhydra lutris

it's almost too surreal a psyop, but...so is the new deal between the UAE and israel. bibi says now that annexing the west bank is more...just on hold for now, than an actual-factual deal.

crazy times. but when weren't they?

before dawn, the crescent moon (4 days past New) was golden ornge over the la platas, with venus as the morning star below and to the east.

guess it was due to the smoke from the many california wild fires, but colorado has plenty as well.

siberian forest fires are still raging, burning the peat in the permafrost. woe to gaia.

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wendy davis's picture

biden will win, but not a land war of course, and he names the many fires and explosions said to have come by way of mossad and others. it's quite long, but ends w/ the bits i've added below:

October Surprise: Will War With Iran Be Trump’s Election Eve Shocker?, August 15, 2020, bob dreyfuss, strategic culture

If, however, the traditional Washington foreign policy establishment believes that Trump’s policy toward Iran is backfiring and so working against U.S. hegemony in the Persian Gulf, his administration seems not to care. As evidence mounts that its approach to Iran isn’t having the intended effect, the White House continues apace: squeezing that country economically, undermining its effort to fight Covid-19, threatening it militarily, appointing an extra-hardliner as its “special envoy” for Iran, and apparently (along with Israel) carrying out a covert campaign of terrorism inside the country.

Over the past four decades, “October surprise” has evolved into a catch-all phrase meaning any unexpected action by a presidential campaign just before an election designed to give one of the candidates a surprise advantage. Ironically, its origins lay in Iran. In 1980, during the contest between President Jimmy Carter and former California Governor Ronald Reagan, rumors surfaced that Carter might stage a raid to rescue scores of American diplomats then held captive in Tehran. (He didn’t.) According to other reports, the Reagan campaign had made clandestine contact with Tehran aimed at persuading that country not to release its American hostages until after the election. (Two books, October Surprise by Gary Sick, a senior national security adviser to Carter, and Trick or Treason by investigative journalist Bob Parry delved into the possibility that candidate Reagan, former CIA Director Bill Casey, and others had engaged in a conspiracy with Iran to win that election.)

Consider it beyond irony if, this October, the latest election “surprise” were to take us back to the very origins of the term in the form of some kind of armed conflict that could only end terribly for everyone involved. It’s a formula for disaster and like so many other things, when it comes to Donald J. Trump, it can’t be ruled out.

tomdispatch.com

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